• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 2028

    Japanese & Korean Art

    18 September 2008, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 208

    Kuwagata Keisai (1764-1824)

    Panoramic view of Edo

    Price Realised  


    Kuwagata Keisai (1764-1824)
    Panoramic view of Edo
    Signed Edo Keisai Kuwagata Shoshin zu, sealed Shoshin
    Ink, color and gold on silk: framed and glazed
    26 x 49½in. (66 x 125.7cm.)
    Seal of Rinji zenkoku homotsu torishirabekyoku in (seal of the temporary national treasure research bureau) lower right

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    From a high vantage point with a dramatic bird's-eye view, we gaze down on the city of Edo as it looked around 1800. Mount Fuji, Edo Castle (home of the shogun) and Ohashi, the largest of the great wooden bridges spanning the Sumida River, are placed on the center axis. The view is at once a dawn landscape and a map.

    Keisai, the son of a tatami-maker, began his career as a print designer and book illustrator using the name Kitao Masayoshi. In his early thirties, he was apponted official painter to a daimyo in western Japan and took the surname Kuwagata in 1797. He was drawn to topographical depictions with a strong sense of expansive, Western-style spatial recession. Around 1803, Keisai designed a print of almost the same novel view as that in the painting shown here. The print is signed "Edo Kuwagata Shoshin" and titled "A Picture of the Famous Places of Edo." Henry Smith has suggested that Keisai may have come by his panorama through the earlier Western-style optique views by the Kyoto artist Maruyama Okyo (see Henry D. Smith II, "World Without Walls: Kuwagata Keisai's Panoramic Vision of Japan," in Japan and the World, eds., Gail Lee Bernstein and Haruhiro Fukui [Oxford: Macmillan Press in association with St. Antony's College, University of Oxford, 1988], 13). Keisai recreated the vista in a painting on sliding doors dated 1809 in Tsuyama Castle.